Breaking Down The Wire

The Case for Bubbles
Talking television.
Nov. 13 2006 2:52 PM

Breaking Down The Wire

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Steve,

I know that feeling. About a third left of the season, and I'm slowing down, trying to savor each chapter—though I'm on edge, knowing that some of my favorite characters may not come out of this season intact, if they make it out of it at all.

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I've got to put Bubbles at the top of my list of most beloved characters. The man's got one messed up life, I know, but he trudges along with such dignity. My heart really went out to him when he got dressed up in coat and tie to take Sherrod, his young intern, to school. Bubbles can barely take care of himself, but he so wanted the best for Sherrod, who's all but disappeared from his life. If you want to understand the personal paradoxes of stumbling along deep in the bowels of poverty, check out Bubbles.

As far as the kids, they've all got to me, though Randy is the one I want to put my arm around and protect. The kid's got spirit—he's an entrepreneur of a different sort than his corner buddies. He has charm—and chutzpah. He even gets Prez to help him out by purchasing bulk candy over the Internet, candy which he sells for a profit to his schoolmates. And he uses the math Prez teaches him to rack up some winnings at a corner dice game. But you know Randy's seen and heard too much. The fact that he was privy to the disappearance of Lex is going to get him into deeper trouble than he's already in, and more likely it's going to be trouble with Marlo, not with the police. I've seen far too many Randys, kids whose fates are completely out of their hands, mostly because they stumbled into something that they'd have been better off not being privy to.

And, yeah, Steve, you're right, Omar's probably near the top of everyone's list. He surely is on mine. I just admire how he carries himself with such cool and such cockiness—and a cockiness, I might add, which is well-earned. He doesn't flinch. At anything. I'd like to see Rush Limbaugh tell Omar he can't get married.

Before I go, I've got to tip my hat to the casting director of The Wire. This is one of those rare television series which is truly an ensemble, and there's not a weak link in the bunch. In fact, each of the main characters feels so strong and so full and so rich with story that you could actually build a series around any of them. As a nonfiction guy—I've got to make do with the characters handed me—I'm in complete awe of the casting in The Wire. Each character feels so genuine, so authentic—so much so that no one seems to be acting, which I suppose is the highest compliment one could pay. Each actor seems perfectly fit for their role. I mean, could you imagine anyone else but Michael K. Williams playing Omar or anyone else but Andre Royo taking on the part of Bubbles? Or how about the kids? I mean, tell me there's anyone else out there better fit for the roles of Namond or Randy or Michael than the actors who play them? And how about Snoop, who's played by Felicia Pearson? That ain't acting. That's living.

There's one final character I've got to mention, and that's Proposition Joe. He has a bit role in the season, but I love his craftiness and his guile, like when he impersonates a lawyer on the phone to try to find out more about police Sgt. Herc. I also like it that amidst all the brutality around him (some of it unleashed by him), he seems to take great pleasure in, of all things, repairing old TVs and hi-fis. How old school.

Anyway, that's it for now. See you next week.

Alex

Alex Kotlowitz is author of There Are No Children Here and The Other Side of the River.

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